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Wheelchair user avatars are coming to Microsoft's Xbox

The new avatars are not far off, says the company's Xbox chief.

Microsoft will offer Xbox users the abilty to choose an avatar in a wheelchair.
Mike Ybarra/Twitter/screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft is expanding the scope of its Xbox avatars by adding ones seated in wheelchairs.

Xbox head Phil Spencer responded Sunday to a couple of tweeters who asked about the possibility of creating wheelchair user avatars. Spencer said the company had already looked at the idea and that it's not far off. Mike Ybarra, head of Windows and Xbox program management, gave everyone a peek Monday night, posting images of the new avatars -- one male and one female -- both sitting in wheelchairs.

Microsoft's new avatars are part of an overall industry trend to create online characters that are more expansive and inclusive of the general population. Facebook recently added the ability to choose from among different skin tones for the emojis used on its Messenger chat app. There are now more emojis for women and for gender identity as well.

The two new avatars are seated in wheelchairs that sport a flag with the familiar Xbox icon. The facial features are also more detailed and expressive than those seen in existing avatars. That suggests Microsoft's next lineup of avatars may look a bit more "human" than the present ones.

Ybarra didn't reveal when the new avatars will debut. But Microsoft reportedly has big plans in store for the Xbox. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week, the software giant could unveil as many as four new Xbox One variations.